As part of the company’s Next Billion User initiative, Google is all set to extend its free Wi-Fi services beyond railway stations to include entire cities.

“We have already connected 227 railway stations in India through Google Stations to provide high speed connectivity. We are now taking this beyond the railway stations to entire smart cities,” Caesar Sengupta, Vice-President, Next Billion Users, told BusinessLine.

“We’ve already deployed it in a couple of smart cities in India and Indonesia,” Sengupta said.

Free connectivity in Pune

Pune will be the first smart city to receive free connectivity across the city from Google Stations initiative.

While Google maintains that it does not plan to monetize Google Stations, it is testing out advertising and possibly paid upgrades to create a sustainable model for Google Stations.

“Sustainability is an important aspect of the initiative. We are currently testing the use of advertisements on certain stations. Ultimately, it will be up to the State governments on how they want to offer the services. We want to make the services sustainable for all stakeholders,” Sengupta said.

Similar to Google, Facebook has also been offering Wi-Fi services in several villages across the country. However, in order to make the initiative sustainable, the company charges users small fee such as ₹10 a day for 300Mb usage through its Express Wi-Fi initiative.

Google last year announced that it will be connecting 400 railway stations with high speed internet connectivity in partnership with the Indian Railways and its telecom arm Railtel.

The company said it expects to achieve that target by early next year.

On Tuesday, Google also announced that Google Assistant, the company personalized artificial intelligence-based assistance will be supported on the Reliance Jio Phone, including voice command in multiple Indian regional languages. While Google didn’t talk about the launch of other Google apps for the Jio Phone, the company said Google maps and certain other services will also work on the Jio Phone through the web browser.

Navigation for 2-wheelers

The search engine giant also introduced a new Two-Wheeler Mode in Google Maps, which will offer navigation especially for two-wheeler riders.

Martha Welsh, Director, Google Maps, said, “India is the world’s largest two-wheeler market and the navigation needs of these millions of riders are different from automobile drivers.

“Two-wheeler mode in Maps gives routes that use shortcuts not accessible to cars.” The two-wheeler mode uses machine learning to suggest more relevant routes for riders, using smaller roads and two-wheeler-friendly shortcuts. It will also show major landmarks on the route so that riders can better plan their trip before starting, and not keep checking their phone on-the-go.

Two-wheeler mode is launched in India initially and will be offered in other countries subsequently.

The search giant also announced the availability of a special version of Android, the Android Oreo (Go edition), which will make entry-level smartphones. The new version of Android will be included in entry level smartphones, which will hit shelves in the coming months.

Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of RAM will get all the optimizations that come with Android Oreo (Go edition), including a better performing OS with built-in data management features and security benefits. There is also a new set of pre-installed Google apps, including Google Go and Google Assistant for Android Oreo (Go edition), designed to be lighter and more relevant to the unique needs of the next billion users.

Android Oreo (Go edition) smartphones also come with a version of the Google Play Store that enables users to download any app, while highlighting the apps designed to work best on Go edition devices. – The Hindu Business Line


 

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